Ukraine is a country that has had a turbulent history. After World War II, the western part of Ukraine merged into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and the whole country became a part of the Soviet Union. It gained its independence in 1991, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The country formed military alliances with Russia and other states from the Commonwealth of Independent states (CIS). During the same time it also formed a partnership with the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), cementing its place in the international community. The country has extensive farm lands that grant them the ability to be one of the largest grain exporters in the world. They also host the third largest military in Europe, after Russia and France.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine began in February 2014, with Russia claiming Crimea and parts of Donbas. These areas are internationally recognized as a part of Ukraine. Following the Euromaidan protests and the subsequent removal of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on February 22 2014, and amidst pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine, Russian soldiers without insignias took control of strategic positions and infrastructure within the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. On March 1, 2014, the Federation Council of Russia unanimously adopted a resolution to petition President Vladimir Putin to use military force in Ukraine. The resolution was adopted several days later, after the start of the Russian military operation on the "Returning of Crimea".
Russia then annexed Crimea after a widely criticized local referendum which was organized by Russia after the capturing of the Crimean Parliament whose outcome was for the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to join the Russian Federation. In April 2014, demonstrations by pro-Russian groups in the Donbas area of Ukraine escalated into a war between the Ukrainian government and the Russian-backed separatist forces of the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics. In August, Russian military vehicles crossed the border in several locations of Donetsk Oblast. The incursion by the Russian military was seen as responsible for the defeat of Ukrainian forces in early September.
The international community has condemned Russia’s actions on Ukraine and fierce sanctions have been imposed on the nation to curb their activities. In December 2015, Putin admitted that Russian military intelligence officers were operating in Ukraine, insisting though that they were not the same as regular troops. As of February 2019, 7% of Ukraine's territory is classified by the Ukrainian government as temporarily occupied territories.
Coming to March and April of 2021, Russia massed about 100,000 soldiers and military equipment near its border with Ukraine, representing the highest force mobilization since the country's annexation of Crimea in 2014. This precipitated an international crisis and generated concerns over a potential invasion. Satellite imagery showed movements of armor, missiles, and other heavy weaponry. The troops were partially removed by June. The crisis was renewed in October and November 2021, when over 100,000 Russian troops were again massed near the border by December.
In a statement to Al Jazeera, a top Ukrainian military expert said that Russia could invade Ukraine as early as January 2022, unleashing a “brief and victorious” war. But the word from Russia is that they are moving their troops for defensive reasons only and they warn NATO troops from expanding east. Many are asking the obvious question, why now? With Russia’s tanking economy due to the pandemic and rising anti-vaccination sentiment that is rippling across the nation, the Kremlin seems to think that this is the best opportunity to grow his popularity again. After the annexation of Crimea, Putin’s approval rating was almost 90% in 2014. He also wants to begin a dialogue with the West and it seems to have worked.
There are constant back and forth between both nations with the United States mobilizing NATO troops in the region. While there seems to be no end to the conflict as of now, the international community is on high alert as, if this conflict continues to escalate, the world will have to choose sides and with shaky political and economic relations between the nations and their allies, things will not end well.
Mirovalev, M. (2021, December 16). Russia and Ukraine conflict explained: What you need to know. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/12/16/what-you-should-know-about-the-conflict-between-russia-ukraine
Putin, V., Lieven, A., & Pike, J. (2022, January 30). Russo-Ukraine War - 2022. GlobalSecurity.org. https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/russo-ukraine-2022.htm
Ukraine and Russia: how have relations soured since the fall of the Soviet Union? (2022, February 6). Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/0a44d4a1-b8b2-4c9d-b07b-63b029c9d6bb
Matthews, D. (2022, February 6). What's Vladimir Putin's endgame in Ukraine? Vox. https://www.vox.com/22917832/vladimir-putin-ukraine-military-invasion